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Damien Mu, AIA: Incentivising Australians to Improve Health & Wellbeing

15 Sep 2021, by Skye Rytenskild

Empowering Australians with the tools they need to take control of their own health is an impetus sweeping across the nation’s health sector. Around 40% of Australians now live with chronic health conditions and half of all hospital admissions are related. There’s clearly an urgent need for meaningful change to the way chronic disease is not only managed but prevented. 

The Chronic Disease Management Summit from 4-5 November in Sydney will be an important forum for national discussion around how to promote people’s wellbeing, increase the efficiency of the healthcare system and reduce hospital use.

Damien Mu, CEO of AIA Australia and AIA Health Insurance, will be taking part in a panel on how the industry can better support people to manage their own conditions, plus encourage them to prioritise wellbeing.

Mu says that harnessing digital innovation and incentivising better health management can create a positive flow-on effect which will lessen the burden on the healthcare system.

“As a life and health insurer we’re familiar with the impact that negative health has on Australians and their families. This is why we believe that preventative health behaviours are so important and seek to empower our customers to take small steps to improve their health and wellbeing.”

Modifying Five Key Lifestyle Behaviours Can Transform Mental & Physical Health 

AIA Australia recently released its 5590+ report on the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors on Australians.

5590+ recognises that five modifiable lifestyle behaviours– physical inactivity, poor nutrition, our interaction with the environment, smoking and excess alcohol – lead to five major non-communicable diseases – cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, heart disease and mental health conditions and disorders – that are responsible for more than 90 per cent of deaths in Australia, as well as significant chronic disease burden.

“By making conscious decisions to improve these five modifiable lifestyle behaviours, Australians can both prevent medical conditions occurring in the first place and reduce the likelihood of existing medical conditions deteriorating further,” says Mu.

Giving Australians simple, effective tools encourages incremental improvements.

“We encourage our customers to get to know their health through evidence-based health screenings and assessments, and then learn where they need to improve their health.”

“By breaking it down, goals don’t seem as difficult to achieve and it’s easier to identify small steps which can be taken which lead to big, long-term improvements.”

By thinking of health as an ongoing journey, and by learning and then focusing on one factor at a time for improvement, Australians can gradually build a series of lasting, healthy habits.

“Our AIA Vitality health and wellbeing program demonstrates that it’s possible for Australians to improve and then maintain healthier lifestyle behaviours. By combining scientific evidence with behavioural economics principles and innovative technology, AIA Vitality is a powerful resource to inspire better health outcomes.”

AIA Vitality incentivises increased physical activity; e.g. by meeting a daily target of 10,000 steps for a week, a customer will receive a reward which positively reinforces the healthy behaviour and can be effective in developing a lasting healthy habit.

A key focus of the Chronic Disease Management Summit will be how  industry bodies and the Australian health system can work together better to manage and prevent chronic disease.

“Prevention is key, and everyone can play a role in this,” says Mu. “By focusing on upstream sources of prevention that address the root cause of unhealthy behaviours, key areas for improvement can be identified. When developing solutions, it’s important that there is ongoing collaboration across multiple sectors and industries to engineer outcomes where healthy choices are simple and accessible.”

“There has been research that demonstrates that investment into prevention policies and health programs is cost-effective when considered alongside the costs of treatment, lost productivity and ongoing health care.”

“Prevention-based interventions often reduce overall health care costs and the economic burden of disease while improving societal productivity and quality of life.”

With the preventative health sector growing apace, the AIA Vitality program is a way that the company can provide value to their customers outside of paying claims. It focuses on four core wellbeing pillars: physical activity (Move Well), nutrition (Eat Well), mental wellbeing (Think Well) and preventative screening (Plan Well).

“AIA Vitality members are rewarded for assessing their health, engaging in activities to improve it, and reaching realistic goals – for example, completing an online mental wellbeing self-assessment, increasing daily steps, and tracking sleep. It also incentivises members to undertake preventative health checks, such as skin examinations and mammograms.”

Importantly, Vitality has demonstrated a flow-on impact on hospital admissions. Overseas Vitality data has shown that the more engaged a person is in the program, the lower their admission rates to hospital, the lower their hospital costs are, and the shorter their hospitals stays are.

“AIA Vitality is available for our life and health customers, as well as our partners. We have approximately 130,000 members in Australia and are continually hearing positive stories from individual and group experiences with the AIA Vitality program.”

The Chronic Disease Management Summit will be an important opportunity for key health stakeholders to engage with the future of the industry. Meet Damien Mu and a host of other speakers, 4-5 November at the Swissotel Sydney. View the full agenda here.

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